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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Genre-fying My School Library, Part Two

So...I made the decision to genre-fy the place.

First, I had to decide what genres I would do. A couple were obvious--Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Horror/Suspense. Those seem to fly off my shelves regardless of their placement. I also decided to pull Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, and what I deemed "Supernatural" (this is your Twilights, and other ghost/zombie/vampire type fiction.). Those worked for me. I didn't do a "chick lit" or "guys read" section because, as someone who reads anything and everything regardless of girl/boy tendencies, I don't want to box books in to a "boy" or "girl" section. The more available or accessible the name of the section, the more likely I'd be to get people reading it, boys and/or girls. I ordered genre stickers from Demco and then started the technical work.

My district has Follett Destiny for it's library software. My favorite upgrade over Follett's Circ/Cat (other than being able to access Destiny on any web-enabled computer) is the report functions. Many of the pre-fab or moderately editable reports are perfect for the job they were created to do. But there isn't one that searches only subject headings on its own.

Destiny has a "report builder" option for that need. My assistant and I went in and built one report that we altered in one of the steps for each genre. (If you want me to send you an export of my horror/suspense parameters, I'll be glad to.) Basically, we told it to give us a list by author with title, call number, and copy info on it. The key came in telling Destiny to limit the report to subject headings containing the genre I was looking for. At that point, Destiny searched in the 650 tags for "historical fiction" (on the first run through).

So...we pulled all the books on that list. My student workers were sent out with the list, book trucks, and highlighters (to mark off which ones they found). They came to hate the yellow historical fiction stickers that we taped onto every book spine. Each class period's slave workers would moan about the yellow stickers.

Then they found a new reason to hate me. I took each book, looked up the individual copy in Destiny and changed the call number for the copy. I DID NOT touch the MARC record, so the 082 tag was left alone. That meant changing the spine labels on all the copies. My students learned of a new kind of library hell--matching books and spine labels.

I changed the copy call numbers for 2 reasons. The first was because I really was going to shelve these books in a separate place than in the fiction section so leaving "FIC" on there didn't make sense. The second was because I'd never be able to find the book once it was shelved without a hint.

Then, we did it for the other 5 genres. There were several days that I sprung for pizza for the lunch class or brought donuts in the morning to make up for being so evil. I even made my famous breakfast casserole a time or two, trying to change their opinions of me.

Seriously, though, it was tedious and time-consuming. Once all the sections had been pulled, stickered, updated, and reshelved, we did a book by book walk through of what was left in general fiction, just to make sure we hadn't left anything behind. Typically, the ones that weren't caught the first time had been checked out or had incomplete MARC records (which I quickly, quickly fixed).

We did run into a few special cases. I can't remember which book it was that had 650 tags for science fiction when it rather clearly wasn't. So I edited that one. Other books, as we all know, fit really well into 2 different genres. And, of course, students who will not read fantasy books but love historical fiction would never even see books that crossed the genres. In those cases, I secretly hoped there were 2 copies in my collection so it could be in both places. For the books that didn't have a second copy, I added them to my shopping list.

I want to note here that I didn't touch my non-fiction section. I think it's important to still find things by their numbers and those numbers should start with 001 and travel over to 999 (with a separate 92 section). When I do displays on topics (sports, paranormal, classics) I pull from both parts of the library, but I never mix them on the shelves.

I have to admit, I was worried about that first fiction order after the shift. I completely thought I'd have to spend days on every order before I could shelve a single book from it. I've since learned that some vendors are willing to help you out, with a little extra leg work on the front end. If I'm willing to create separate lists (an historical fiction list, a fantasy list, etc.) when I place an order, they'll make sure that all the copy information AND the spine labels are to my new specs.

It took the entire spring semester to get it all sorted out, and I'm still finding books that aren't in the right genres. Just today, I discovered we'd completely skipped over H.G. Wells when looking for science fiction books. I'm looking at some other options for additional pull-outs, too--maybe a "Best Books for the College Bound" section or "adventure" books.

All the work, and the headaches, are totally worth it. My circulation is up. My students are talking about all these cool books we have and when did we get them (umm.....years ago). It's awesome.

Genre-fying My School Library, part one

Last year, the library team and I undertook two massive projects. The second (packing, moving, then unpacking the entire collection) could've been accomplished without the first and all the headaches it caused. But, as anyone who knows me will tell you, why make things easy on myself?

The first task was reorganizing the library collection. Really, just the fiction collection. I'd noticed that only the "popular" books were moving, the Twilights, the Uglies, the Hunger Games. All good in their own rights and ways, but my kids were missing older titles that were easily as good. All the displays and book talks in the world weren't going to move some of these books with my kids. Because the way to find them didn't make a lot of sense to them.

GASP! Oh the horror! The basic fiction shelving rules didn't make sense to them? They'd been taught these things from the beginning of time (or 1st grade, whichever came first) and they still didn't understand how to use it. I know, I know.....this made me a little sick to my librarian stomach.

So, I questioned some kids. "When you walk into a room full of books, how do you know where to find what you're looking for?"  Almost every student said "I look for the ___________ section." (Insert your favorite genre.) One kid (out of about 150 that I asked) told me he used the OPAC and then clarified his answer by telling me that was just for research projects. My tried and true method for finding books and understanding of how libraries worked didn't work for my students.

I'm teaching kids who rarely, if ever, set foot inside a library for reasons other than needing book test points until they get to high school. Then, it's because there is a research paper that requires lots of work in the non-fiction section. The majority don't appear to read for pleasure. I say "appear" because I don't know if they're getting books elsewhere, I just know they aren't getting them from me.

But they have been inside a book store. They know that if they walk into the major-named bookstore in the next city over and hang a left at the information counter, they'll hit the young adult section. They don't know what "young adult" means necessarily, but they know it's where they want to be. Except for my die hard graphic novel fans, who will make a right at the first aisle and go straight until they hit the back wall. Obviously, I've been there a few times.

Believe me, upending my fiction section wasn't an easy decision. I know it doesn't match our county library system's arrangement. I know it will clash with what they see in college, never mind that many (most?) colleges and universities are LC and not DDC. I know it doesn't match what they saw in kindergarten through eighth grade. I take comfort in the orderly arrangement of fiction shelves, from A to Z, with Mary Higgins Clark just a shelf away from Arthur C. Clarke. I feel better knowing my Westerfelds (Scott) are between my Weltys (Eudora) and my Wilders (Laura Ingalls) and not in 3 different sections. Part of the reason I'm a librarian is because of the consistent orderliness of the system.

But, this library and its arrangement isn't about what makes me happy or my ease of use. It's about my students. Sure, there are some staff members thrown into the mix, but my students outnumber my staff by nearly 12 to 1. This should've been a no-brainer, but it still took me 3 months to decide to do it. The why was easy, even if it left me with a little inner librarian conflict. Then I had to figure out the how.

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